A 'China City of America' under consideration for New York

The controversial project has been called both a "Chinese Disneyland" and a "stalking horse" for the Beijing government

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 December, 2013, 6:10pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 December, 2013, 6:14pm

New York City’s Chinatown may soon have a larger cousin – a massive, 600 acre “China City of America” cousin, that is.

Currently in proposed development, China City is the brainchild of investors led by Sherry Li, a businesswoman from Long Island who has described the project as a “Chinese Disneyland concept”.

Spanning land in northern New York state’s Catskills region, the planned China City will encompass housing developments, shopping malls, casinos, an amusement park, various hotels and museums, and several cultural tourist attractions, including a replica of Beijing’s Forbidden City and a park that will “showcase the 56 nationalities of China with 56 different pavilions devoted to each nationality,” according to the project’s official website.

Estimated at costing at least six billion US dollars (HK$ 8 billion), the project is targeting foreign investors, particularly those from China.

Li and her team plan to attract potential backers by utilising the EB-5 for Immigrant Investors federal visa programme, which grants wealthy foreign investors the chance to receive a US Green Card if they invest half a million dollars into a business venture in a rural or underdeveloped area.

The project is currently only under consideration and will need to secure federal approval and pass through various permits before any construction can commence.

Nevertheless, news of China City has spread through American media within the last week, with some outlets calling the project a “Chinatown on stereoids”. Reaction has been mixed, with many questioning the logic behind designing a China-themed area in New York. Others have cited ecological and immigration concerns.

“[The China City project] is the perfect storm,” wrote David North, a fellow of the Center for Immigration Studies, a non-profit research group that provides information on immigration to the United States. “It has [already] generated adverse reactions because of a project budget bordering on the bizarre, its planned ecological impact on a previously pristine rural area, the apparently ignored need to secure environmental permits from state authorities…[and] a charge from within the Chinese community that China City is a stalking horse for the Chinese communist government in Beijing.”

North’s reference to a charge from within the Chinese community comes from members of the American branches of the Falun Gong, who have “raised objection…about the proposed project as a vehicle for expanding the influence of the Beijing government within the United States.”

“It has [been] suggested that at least some of the money funnelled through EB-5 investments in all likelihood would be from the Chinese government,” North wrote, citing sources close to the Falun Gong’s American community.

Others have taken a more positive view of China City, including Bill Liblick, a writer from New York’s Sullivan County – which encompasses land planned for use under the project.

“If China City works, it could place Sullivan County back on the map in a way like we have never seen before,” Liklick wrote. “This entirely new market could become a real economic generator for us.”